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Rise School welcomes preschoolers with, without special needs

(CONTRIBUTED)
(CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – Jerry and Amanda Lee’s determination for their son’s education has resulted in opening the Rise School.

Rotary Club of Madison recently heard the Lees’ journey to find a preschool for son Jonathan, who has Down syndrome. Three Huntsville preschools wanted to place Jonathan by his developmental age, not chronological. “Many schools stated they were not ‘equipped’ to handle children with special needs,” Jerry Lee said.

They found the Rise School at the University of Alabama, which blends children without and with special needs at a 50/50 ratio. In 2009, the Lees moved to Tuscaloosa. He commutes five hours daily to his job in Huntsville.

By 2010, the Lees recruited a board of directors to open Rise School to Huntsville. In January, they opened one classroom for 10 children maximum at Trinity United Methodist Church.

The Lees collaborated with local educator Courtney Johnston and founding board members Nancy Crunkelton, Brad Bohan, David Block and Ken Watson. The school’s director is Caroline Bradford.

The schools strive to give preschoolers a strong foundation for their next educational experience. For children with special needs, Rise School provides medical support to remove any barriers to learning. “We don’t discriminate against any diagnosis. Our vision is to enroll children identified at birth with a special need as soon as six weeks” and up to six years old, Lee said.

Jonathan Lee has been attending the Rise School in Tuscaloosa and Huntsville. In August, he will attend Mill Creek Elementary School. (CONTRIBUTED)
Jonathan Lee will graduate from Rise School in Tuscaloosa in July. In August, he will attend Mill Creek Elementary School. (CONTRIBUTED)

Rise teachers have master’s degrees in early childhood education and special education. Teacher assistants have bachelor degrees in education. The school maintains 1:4 adult-to-child ratio.

Most fundraising has been private solicitation. “We have all reached out to our sphere of influence to get the doors open with great success. I’m still dreaming of that one person to fulfill the legacy by taking this school to another dimension,” he said.

In July, the Lees will move to Madison, and Jonathan will attend Mill Creek Elementary School in August. “We’ll call Madison home … hopefully forever,” Lee said.

For more information, call 256-489-7512, email to caroline.bradford@riseofhuntsville.org or visit riseofhuntsville.org and Facebook/Rise of Huntsville.

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